What powers do Duterte have in Bayanihan 2?

The new Bayanihan law has empowered President Duterte to direct or take over the operations of private establishments and public transportation for programs related to the coronavirus response when public interest requires.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

The President is also authorized to realign and reprogram funds of government projects for pandemic response such as purchase of protective gear for frontliners and establishment of isolation and treatment facilities.

Republic Act No. 11494 or the the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act provides for the COVID response and recovery interventions as well as mechanisms to accelerate economic recovery. The measure, signed by the President last Friday includes P140 billion in regular appropriations and P25.5 billion in standby funds. It takes effect upon publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper, and will be in force until Dec. 19, 2020.

The Bayanihan 2 law includes a provision on the "authority to direct the operation of private establishments" during the effectivity of the measure.

"When the public interest so requires, the President may direct the operation of any privately-owned hospitals and medical and health facilities, including passenger vessels and other establishments, to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, quarantine centers, medical relief and aid distribution locations, or other temporary medical facilities; and public transportation to ferry health, emergency and frontline personnel and other persons," the law said.

Under this setup, the owners will keep the management and operation of these enterprises and provide a full accounting to the President about the operations of the utility or basis for appropriate compensation.

"If the the foregoing enterprise unjustifiably refuse or signify that they are no longer capable of operating their enterprises for the purposes stated therein, the President may over their operations subject the limits and safeguards enshrined in the Constitution," the law read.

The new law also authorizes the President "to realign and reprogram funds from P/A/Ps (program, activities, projects) which cannot be utilized effectively as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, whether release or unreleased, the allotments for which remain unobligated and utilize the savings generated" to fund certain programs.

These programs include purchase of personal protective equipment for health workers and other frontliners; establishment of isolation and treatment facilities; construction of field hospitals; purchase of vaccine and or cure for COVID-19 once available; hiring and provision of benefits for health workers and providing for their allowances; testing for COVID-19; and subsidy for COVID-19 positive patients admitted to isolation centers.

The law however made clear that appropriations for infrastructure projects shall not be subject of reprogramming and realignment.

Bayanihan 2 law also allows the government to require businesses "to prioritize and accept contracts subject to fair and reasonable terms for materials and services to promote" the government's policy. The rates chargeable by accommodation establishments to persons undergoing quarantine may be regulated by the Department of Tourism.

The law also provided several fund allocations for hiring of health workers, improvement of healthcare services, assistance for workers, small businesses and other industries affected by the pandemic, purchase of vaccines, among others.

The government will provide an emergency subsidy ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 to affected low income households in areas under "granular lockdown" and households with recently returned overseas Filipino workers. The subsidy will be computed depending on the regional minimum wage rates.

An unemployment or involuntary separation assistance amounting P5,000 to P8,000 will also given to workers displaced during the pandemic as may be identified by the Department of Labor and Employment. A one-time cash assistance to displaced teaching and non-teaching personnel will also be extended.

The law also directed electric, water, telecommunications, and other utilities to implement a 30-day grace period for the payment of utilities within enhanced community quarantine or modified enhanced community quarantine period without interests, penalties, and other charges.

It also mandates a 30-day grace period on residential rents and commercial rents of lessees not permitted to work, and small businesses and cooperatives ordered to temporarily cease operations without additional charges.

The law also exempts personal computers, laptops, tablets, or similar equipment for use in schools, donated for distribution to public schools, from import duties and taxes including donor's tax.

Retirement benefits received by officials and employees of private companies from June 5, 2020 until Dec. 31, 2020 will also excluded from gross income and shall be exempt from taxation.